A real-time Vincentian Ancestry.com!
Walking through our cemetery in Princeton, New Jersey is not prescribed by our common rules. But it is a practice just about every confrere I know engaged in whenever they visited Princeton over the years and had a few moments.
I have been doing it for some 60 years. As an 18-year-old, I saw them as just names. By the time I was ordained in 1965, I think I knew some 30 who had been added. I knew many more, not personally, but from the stories that were told about them. I would start at the top of the cemetery and just walk meditatively along the rows of simple headstones.
Our Princeton cemetery officially began in 1934. The earliest markers were for confreres who died in the 19th century. They had been brought down from Niagara University. On one of my last walks through the cemetery, I was struck by how many rows had been added. But even more, I realized how many of the more than 450 confreres I knew that I had personally met and even lived with. I did not have to turn to ancestry.com. It was very much walking on hallowed ground.
At every morning prayer, we remember those who died on that date in the past and how old they were. It is especially sobering to realize that I am now older by many years than these men who I once thought were old at 60 or 65.
It was common in medieval monasteries to keep what is called a necrology, or a list of those who died. The necrology served not only to prompt prayers for the repose of the souls of deceased forbearers but also to remind the community of the ideals and experiences that particularly defined and distinguished them.
When a confrere dies, our current custom in most houses of the community is to spend some time at the wake sharing our stories of the confrere. As one provincial once said, “I learn so much about the confrere that I never knew.” We can be grateful for the various incarnations of our newsletters from the Heri-Hodie to the copies homilies given to our archives, that we have vignettes to stir us on.
One of the features of this website currently under development is a section telling the stories behind the facts recorded in our Vincentian necrology.
We hope that it will allow more people to celebrate the confreres made this province what it is today.
PS Visit an earlier post describing Fr. Lou Trotta;s 78 years of remembrance of our college prep and cemetery.